Proverbs 24:16 has been on my mind – and in my face – recently. It came to me this past weekend through my pastor in a sermon, a TV show I was watching, and in response to something I did on Saturday night. It says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” For those of us who are striving to please God, it’s important that we don’t get discouraged when we miss the mark. I learned two very important lessons this weekend when I did exactly that.
My Saturday Sin
Saturday night, I sinned. It was the James 4:17 kind. (“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”) After a day of working with my husband to take care of a chore around the house, I knew he wanted to spend quality time with me that evening. I, on the other hand, am an introvert who really craves my alone time. I had gotten myself into something that I was enjoying and didn’t want to quit even when I felt the pull. “You know he wants to spend time with you. What you’re doing isn’t important. Go to your husband.” My response? “I will. In a minute. Let me just finish this one thing.”
Well, I “one-thing-ed” for an hour or so. Then a message came to my phone about a prayer request. I clicked off. I would get to that “in a minute” too. The long story short was that I did both go to my husband and pray for the request. I did it in my time, though, after I ignored my conscience for a while. When the heat of the moment and that “one thing” was over, I realized that two times I had put my own needs in front of others even though I knew it wasn’t right. I apologized to my hurt husband and to God.
Discouragement and a Quick Answer
As I thought things over later, I started to stress. Why couldn’t I MAKE MYSELF do what I knew was right? I make myself do hard things all the time (like all adults). Why was this time different? Proverbs 24:16 had already come to my mind that night, so I knew the answer was to dust myself off and get up again. But then my pastor mentioned it again in the service the next day. (My pastor listens very closely to God. It is amazing how many times I can hear the answers to my problems when I listen closely to him!)
“A righteous man may fall seven times…” My pastor said he thought sometimes God backs away from us just a little bit and allows us to do things in our own strength just to show us how badly we need Him and His grace. After all, the times when we do the right things, say the right things, and behave in ways that bring glory to God are all by His grace. We can’t take credit for any of them because apart from Him, we can do nothing.
An Old TV Show Brought More Insight
Then I saw it from a different perspective on a TV show my husband and I watch. Finding wholesome TV these days is no small feat. So recently we had to dig around in the oldies to find something good. We have been watching the old 1970’s show The Waltons lately. In this episode, the Walton family had a young preacher from out of town staying with them. He was set to preach that next Sunday and kept shouting at the children about sin and practicing his sermon about hellfire. (I didn’t love the stereotypical way Christians were portrayed and rolled my eyes more than once.)
Of course, you could see trouble coming a mile away when he went to visit his cousins, two sweet old ladies who moonshine whisky in the mistaken notion that their father’s “recipe” is a tonic. The young preacher got drunk and fell on his face right before the big meeting. It was only when the dad, John Walton, stood up for him to the strait-laced missionary lady (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) that the young preacher was able to address the crowd.
Then the preacher said the verse, “A righteous man may fall seven times…” He had learned a lesson through his own fall and was ready to lead with compassion instead of looking down his nose with a pointing finger.
It was another lesson for me. Sometimes, by God’s grace, we can get used to doing the right things. We know what the Bible says, and when we look out and see others who don’t seem to be doing it right, it can lead to pride and haughtiness. When we do experience our own “falls,” it can be a wake-up call for us to cling to Jesus in dependence instead of trusting in our own strength.
Grace is the Key
For Christians who are striving to be faithful, sin is a distressing experience. So often it’s not until after we did the thing, said the words, or thought the thoughts that it really hits us that we fell short and grieved the heart of God. In those instances, speedy and sincere repentance is the order of the day as we beg God to help us never to do that thing again. We can stand on God’s promise of forgiveness, but even after He has removed our sin as far as east is from the west, the enemy can come at us with accusations and discouragement. It is in those times that we must remember Proverbs 24:16. We fall, but we get up again and keep trusting Jesus. After all, it’s only by His grace that we will ultimately stand.
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